This case is before us on discretionary review of a question certified to be of great public importance. We have jurisdiction. Art. V, § 3(b)(4), Fla. Const.
The city of Boca Raton contracted with the State of Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services to contribute $29,730.10 to match state and federal funds to be used for the operation of the Florence Fuller Child Development Center. The state and federal funds to be contributed were $29,730.10 and $178,380.60 respectively. The center is a non-profit educational child care center in Boca Raton. It provides subsidized child care services including infant nursery care, pre-school and after school programs and summer programs for disadvantaged children.
The respondents, taxpayers and citizens of the city, sued the petitioners, the city of Boca Raton, et al., to enjoin the contribution. They contended that such contribution was expressly prohibited by section 7.06, Boca Raton City Charter which provides:
On appeal, the Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed the judgment of the trial court. Gidman v. City of Boca Raton, 416 So.2d 1168 (Fla. 4th DCA 1982). In doing so it held that although the child care center is undoubtedly an educational facility, it is also a charitable organization. Therefore, any contribution to that organization by the city is proscribed by the city charter. The court further determined that the "functional test" supplied by the trial court could not be applied in this instance. The Florida Constitution authorizes municipalities to exercise "any power for municipal purposes except as otherwise provided by law." Art. VIII, § 2(b), Fla. Const. The court said that in this case the law provides a limitation, the city charter. In addition, The Municipal Home Rule Powers Act provides that the legislature intends to extend to municipalities the exercise of powers for municipal purposes "not expressly prohibited by the constitution, general or special law, or county charter... ." § 166.021(4), Fla. Stat. (1979). The court held that the charter provision is such an express limitation and a "functional test" cannot be applied.
On petition for rehearing, the Fourth District Court of Appeal certified the following question as one of great public importance:
416 So.2d at 1171 (on petition for rehearing).
Although we approve the result of the trial court's decision, we disagree with the rationale upon which it was based and we answer the certified question in the negative.
The petitioners argue that while the child care center is a tax-exempt educational facility which is defined as both "educational" and "charitable" by section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, it should not be considered charitable for purposes of the city charter's limitation. They argue further that the section should not be read literally because it would lead to absurd results. Instead, the focus should be on the nature of the services provided. If the services are for a "municipal purpose" the organization which provides them is irrelevant.
The respondents argue that the day care facility does not constitute a valid municipal purpose and, in any event, the instant contribution was to a charitable organization and therefore violates the city charter. We agree in part with the petitioners' argument and disagree in whole with the respondents'.
In order to avoid the limitation of the city charter, the trial court determined the child care center is an educational facility. In order to apply the limitation, the district court of appeal found it to be a charitable organization. To focus only on a label for the organization is to avoid interpretation of the meaning of the charter provision. We think the section is sufficiently ambiguous
Article VIII, section 2(b) of the Florida Constitution provides that:
This language was new in the 1968 revision of the constitution. It appears to provide that all municipalities have governmental, corporate and proprietary powers unless otherwise limited by law, whereas under the 1885 Constitution, municipalities had only those powers expressly granted by law. In 1973 the legislature made clear its intent to allow broad exercise of the home rule powers granted by the constitution. The Municipal Home Rule Powers Act, section 166.021(4) of the Florida Statutes (1979) provides in part:
Thus, whenever a municipality exercises its powers, a two-tiered question should be asked. Was the action undertaken for a municipal purpose? If so, was that action expressly prohibited by the constitution, general or special law, or county charter? See State v. City of Sunrise, 354 So.2d 1206 (Fla. 1978).
"Municipal purpose" is nowhere clearly defined. Section 166.021(2) states that it is "... any activity or power which may be exercised by the state or its political subdivision." Providing day care educational facilities for the disadvantaged would seem to be an activity which may be carried on by the state. The term has been broadly interpreted by this Court and has included such activities as maintenance and operation of a radio broadcasting system by the city. State v. City of Jacksonville, 50 So.2d 532 (Fla. 1951). In that case, the Court stated:
Id. at 535.
This Court has never addressed the specific issue of whether day care facilities constitute a "municipal purpose". The Supreme Court of Wisconsin, however, has. In Hopper v. City of Madison, 79 Wis.2d 120, 256 N.W.2d 139 (1977), that court held that there is no doubt the supervision and care of the community's children promotes the health and welfare of the city and it is reasonable to conclude that a program to make available and improve day care serves a valid municipal purpose.
If the legislature has determined that an activity is for a municipal purpose, there will be no interference from the courts absent a clear abuse of discretion. 50 So.2d at 534. See also State v. City of Tallahassee, 142 Fla. 476, 195 So. 402 (1940). Section 167.28, Florida Statutes (1971) (repealed 1973) provided:
That section, along with all other specific grants of power, was deleted in 1973 from the Municipal Home Rule Powers Act. In reference to the deletion, section 166.042, Florida Statutes (1979), provides:
It is clear that the legislature still considers the activities enumerated in chapter 167 as proper municipal purposes. Considering the clear legislative intent that municipalities be able to provide for the poor as well as provide educational facilities, and the broad interpretation of "municipal purpose" by the courts, there is no doubt in our minds that provision for day care educational facilities such as the Florence Fuller Child Development Center is indeed a valid municipal purpose which is rationally related to the health, morals, protection and welfare of the municipality.
The respondents propose that a strict construction of the city charter is required and therefore, that the instant expenditure is expressly prohibited by it. This proposition relies mainly on Heriot v. City of Pensacola, 108 Fla. 480, 146 So. 654 (1933).
108 Fla. at 486, 146 So. at 656 (citing Ex Parte Sims, 40 Fla. 432, 25 So. 280, 282 (1898)). The respondents' reliance is misplaced. Heriot was decided before the enactment of article VIII, section 2(b) and the Home Rule Powers Act. The above excerpt applies to a specific grant of power. Local governments now have all the powers necessary to function vis-a-vis the Florida Constitution and The Municipal Home Rule Powers Act.
What we are concerned with here is the interpretation of a limitation of those powers already granted. In construing statutes, it is a primary rule that the intent is the vital part. It is the essence of the law. The primary rule of construction is to ascertain and give effect to that intent. State v. Sullivan, 95 Fla. 191, 116 So. 255 (1928). No literal interpretation should be given that leads to an unreasonable or ridiculous conclusion or to a purpose not designated by the lawmakers.
If interpreted literally, the charter limitation would hamstring the city in carrying out its governmental functions. It would prevent the city from contracting with any non-profit organization to provide municipal services. This would require the city to pay a much higher price for any service which is otherwise available through a charitable or service organization. In this instance, the community is to receive $237,840.80 in day care services from the charitable facility at a cost to the city of $29,730.10. It is illogical to require the city to choose between contracting with a profit-making organization and thereby paying the entire cost, or not providing for the service at all. It could not have been the intention of the people to require such an inefficient allocation of economic resources. There is no danger that the city's funds would be spent for some non-municipal purpose. The entire amount contributed by the federal, state and municipal governments is earmarked for the Florence Fuller Child Development Center. The center operates only in Boca Raton. The funds are to be under the administrative control of the State of Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services and eligibility requirements are set by the department. The center has no power to expend these funds for any purpose other than child care services for the Boca Raton community.
A law should be construed together with any other law relating to the same purpose such that they are in harmony. Wakulla County v. Davis, 395 So.2d 540 (Fla. 1981); Garner v. Ward, 251 So.2d 252 (Fla. 1971). Courts should avoid a construction which places in conflict statutes which cover the same general field. Howarth v. City of Deland, 117 Fla. 692, 158 So. 294 (1934). The law favors a rational, sensible construction. Realty Bond & Share Co. v. Englar, 104 Fla. 329, 143 So. 152 (1932).
Section 2.01, Boca Raton City Charter, provides:
This language is identical to that of article VIII, section 2(b). Section 166.021(4) expresses the intention of the legislature to secure for municipalities the broad exercise of the home rule powers granted by the constitution. In addition, section 165.021, known as the Formation of Local Government Act, provides in part:
A literal interpretation of section 7.06, Boca Raton City Charter would not only lead to an absurd result but would also place it in direct conflict with other laws relating to the same purpose. We refuse to do so and quash the decision of the district court on the grounds stated. The cause is remanded to the district court of appeal with instructions to affirm the judgment of the trial judge for the reasons stated herein.
It is so ordered.
ALDERMAN, C.J., BOYD, OVERTON, McDONALD, EHRLICH and SHAW, JJ., concur.